The How, What and Why on Patient Referral Systems

Referrals are an important part of any patient care plan. Once it becomes apparent that a patient requires care beyond what you specialize in, it’s time to direct that patient to another provider who can address these additional issues. This is integral to seeing positive patient health outcomes, but can cause a delay in the process if not handled appropriately. Let’s take a look at patient referrals the way they’ve always been done, the challenges that can arise, why it’s important to improve these processes, and how we can do that.

How have patient referrals traditionally been managed?

Traditionally, when a patient needs to see a specialist, the provider will make a note in the patient’s chart and send the information over to the practice’s referral department for them to get prior authorization from the patient’s insurance, if necessary, choose a provider and schedule the appointment. Once that is completed, the patient will be notified of the specialist they will be seeing and when their appointment is.

What are some of the challenges to referring patients in this way?

Completing patient referrals the traditional way is not only time consuming, but because it relies on people to keep this often complicated, multi-layered process going, it can be all too easy for patients to get lost in the shuffle, with their referral taking much longer than necessary or, even worse, falling through the cracks entirely. Additionally, referral staff are trained to take the first available appointment with a specialist, which makes sense but can also run into the possibility that the appointment scheduled for the patient won’t fit into their schedule and will leave them needing to go through the process of rescheduling. This is inconvenient and adds to already lengthy wait times.

Why is it important to improve how patient referrals are completed?

It’s estimated that there are over 10 billion faxes sent each year in healthcare and that less than 50% of faxed referrals ever actually lead to an appointment. As you can imagine, this leads to patients with more unaddressable illness and increased healthcare costs. When care continuity breaks down this way, patients are lost in the shuffle and their providers are left wondering if their patients ever got the care they needed.

How can a patient referral system make this process more efficient?

Using a patient referral system allows for referrals to be processed more conveniently and efficiently, as well as for more complete tracking of where each patient is in the referral process. This streamlining of the scheduling and communication process strengthens referral relationships and improves care coordination while increasing the Referral to Appointment (RTA) ratio. All of this adds up to improved health outcomes for patients.

Patient referrals are an important part of the healthcare industry, integral in providing adequate patient care. The traditional process for completing patient referrals relies heavily on staff to track numerous patients throughout a multi-layered referral process, allowing for the possibility of some patients to get lost in the shuffle. Using a patient referral system can streamline the process and allow for the successful completion of more patient referrals and an improvement in continuity of care. Henry Schein SolutionsHub offers LeadingReach, a web-based platform designed to improve communication in healthcare. LeadingReach provides a digital referral solution that enables practices to more accurately refer and track their patients by managing all inbound and outbound referrals in a single dashboard with all relevant information at your fingertips. Are you ready to make your referral process more efficient?

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